The Fiesta Begins on Las Olas
By RICHARD DAVID CHAMBERLAIN
It’s tough to miss the bar in Rocco’s Tacos, the popular Mexican eatery on Las Olas Boulevard. It stretches across the entire west wall of the restaurant, with five shelves full of assorted liquors including 220 types of tequila alone. Twice we tried counting the entire inventory, running out of fingers and toes long before we hit a tally of 350 bottles.
The bartenders—female, cute, and obviously having a good time—take the vast stock in stride, seeming to have a sixth sense about how to find any particular label.
Surrounded by carved wood, the bar looks like it belongs in a vintage pub, and sets the tone for this place that is at-once seasoned and current. This is an eatery full of attractive people having a raucous time, confirming Rocco’s Tacos place as the current in-spot to go for a good time. The fact that the food keeps pace with the high energy level of the joint is in itself a bonus.For that we can thank executive chef Adam Dumbrowski and co-owner Rocco Mangel.
The house specialty, as you might guess from the restaurant’s name, is Tacos. Select between chicken, roasted pork, spicy beef, chorizo, mushroom, shrimp, skirt steak and blackened mahi ($2.95-$4.25). Having tasted them all, on multiple occasions, we give five stars to all the varieties, though the Cochinitas Achiote (slow-roasted pork) is particularly succulent. All tacos come in hard shell or soft corn tortillas.
For California purests there is a platter of three California Fish Tacos, filled with lightly battered and fried Mahi Mahi, cabbage slaw and avocado ranch dressing, nustled in place by a heap of spice white rice and black beans.
At $17, this is an expensive choice, made all the more so because it doesn’t really taste that great. (Where California Fish Tacos are concerned, we set the bar quite high, thanks to repeated visits to Mamá Testa Taqueria in the Hillcrest District of San Diego. Mamá, who knows these things, swears catfish is the fish of choice-not too fried, and not too covered in Mexican slaw.)
At Rocco’s Tacos, every item on the menu comes with a price tag, including customarily free chips and salsa. They are given the authentic name of Totopos and cost $3. For that price, you get a basket of homemade corn chips seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, and perhaps cayenne, although the exact recipe seems to be a house secret. For $12, the servers will bring a serving cart to your table and prepare Guacamole from scratch with your choice of three different degrees of wam! We opted for medium hot, which was the perfect complement of pepper to avocado.
For a meal with more substance, explore the tasty Molcajetes. Traditionally, a molcajetes is a bowl made from volcanic rock. The Rocco’s Taco version uses the molcajetes as the baking dish for a fajita-like concoction that comes in three varieties: Seafood (shrimp, scallops, and mahi mahi, served with poblano chiles, calabaza squash, and charred tomatoes), Carne (skirt steak, chicken, and chorizo, prepared with three pepper rajas, rojo, and tequila) and Surf & Turf (steak, chorizo, chicken, and shrimp). This specialty act doesn’t come cheap-$22 for a molcajetes serving one; $38 for two.
In case you’re missing the point, there is a recurring theme here—expensive and fun. Crack open your piggy bank and make the scene. And tell them Agenda sent you.
ROCCOS TACO’S AND TEQUILA BAR
1313 E Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301